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10,000 health support workers to hold 24-hour strike

Health support workers in 38 hospitals and health care facilities have announced strike action for June 20.

The 24-hour work stoppage will be undertaken by 10,000 workers in a dispute over the failure to implement pay increases arising from an agreed job evaluation scheme.

The action will involve members of SIPTU trade union who provide portering, household and catering services and who are employed as Health Care Assistants, Maternity Care Assistants, Laboratory Aides, Chefs and Surgical Instrument Technicians.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary for the Public Sector, John King, said: “It is time for the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and the Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, to step in and resolve this dispute. Failure to do this will undoubtedly bring pressures on the delivery of health services.

“Our members accepted the provisions of all the public service agreements since 2010. The Government must now honour its obligations contained within these agreements.

It is time to deliver for these workers. It is unacceptable that workers should be forced to go into an official dispute in order to get what they are owed.

He added: “SIPTU representatives remain available for talks but such an engagement must be about the practical implementation of these outstanding awards for our members.”

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “SIPTU representatives hoped that this day would never come and that the HSE, Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would see sense, and honour our members’ job evaluation process.

Members employed in chef grades are also taking action. They co-operated with an independent review process of their pay relationship with similar grades in the public health service and in recent weeks have had their hopes of achieving pay justice dashed.

“The ball is now in the court of the Government. The Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, has a small three week window to resolve this dispute or face the consequences. Our members voted overwhelmingly by 95% in favour of taking strike action. They will not back down until they win this campaign for pay justice.”

He added that the dispute has "been in the offing since 2015" when the Public Service Stability Agreement at Lansdowne Road was signed.

He said: "A job evaluation process that had been suspended for approximately nine years was reintroduced. From there on we found it very difficult to actually get into an investigation of how the job evaluation process was going to apply for support staff grades who are the lowest paid grades within the health service.

"The issue we've had within the scheme itself, there is a six to eight week window for when the Government, represented by the HSE, would accept the outcome of the job evaluations. There are about 5,000 people initially involved in that, the HSE have accepted the outcome, but what has happened is that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform refuse to fund the necessary monies in Budget 2019.

The position we are now in we cannot actually get the monies we're owed for our members.

Mr Bell went on to say that the matter was with the national oversight body in 2016.

He told News at One: "When the initial dispute broke out about its application, it then went to the WRC where the parties made an agreement on how this would be worked through and that agreement by and large has been successful.

"The issue for us very simply is we believe that Government at this stage is grasping at straws, they want to frustrate the issue even further, but that touting that we would go into the national oversight body, as far as we're concerned, we are in a dispute about implementation of awards made under an independent process.

"In relation to chef grades €2.9m per annum accumulated for those workers, in relation to support staff it's €16.1m per annum. It ranges from €1500 to €3100 per annum for workers."

    The hospitals where the workers will take strike action are:

    Cork University Hospital

    Cork University Maternity Hospital

    Kerry University Hospital

    Mallow General Hospital

    South Infirmary Hospital Cork

    South Tipperary General Hospital

    Wexford General Hospital

    St Lukes Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny

    Mercy Hospital Cork

    Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown

    National Rehabilitation Hospital

    Beaumont Hospital

    St Ita’s Portrane

    Mater Hospital

    St James Hospital

    St Vincent’s University Hospital

    Tallaght Hospital

    Our Lady’s Hospital Navan

    Louth County Hospital

    Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda

    Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin

    Rotunda Hospital

    Central Mental Hospital

    Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar

    Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore

    Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

    Naas General Hospital

    Cavan General Hospital

    Letterkenny University Hospital

    Sligo General Hospital

    Roscommon Hospital

    Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe

    Galway University Hospital

    Merlin Park

    Mayo University Hospital

    UL Hospital Dooradoyle

    UL Maternity Hospital

    UL Orthopaedic Hospital Croom